Kitchen countertops play a large role in the appeal of a kitchen. With an array of materials and colors to choose from, countertops can complement the personal style and design of a kitchen. Although granite has been a popular countertop in the past decade, more unique kitchen designs are using quartz, concrete, and stainless steel. At Callen, we know that style and function are unique to each homeowner, so we help homeowners make informed and educated decisions about what will work best for them. Here’s a list of the most common countertop materials, and a list of the pros and cons for each.
Granite is still very popular with our customers. It’s extremely durable and available in many colors. Since it is heat resistant and waterproof, you can set a hot pot on it and it won’t burn. Although you can use a knife on granite without seeing marks, it will dull your knife, and it is not recommended. It is necessary to seal the granite periodically to protect the surface. Many people often see sealing as a hassle; however, it only takes a few minutes to apply the manufacturer-recommend product, wipe it off, and buff it lightly. Lighter granites are more porous, so we recommend sealing those more often. Apart from sealing, maintenance for granite countertops is minimal.
Although it is one of the most durable materials, it can certainly be chipped if you drop a cast iron pan on it, so be mindful. Also, remember that slabs of granite can vary. If your kitchen needs more than one slab of granite, you want to make sure that the numbers are on the slab are in sequence. Since, the veining and color shading can vary, we always have the homeowner approve the slabs before they are installed.
Pros: Natural beauty, multiple colors, resists heat, and durable. Surfaces can be polished or satin.
Cons: Sealing is required, knives dull when cut on it, and limited colors by Mother Nature.
Quartz, also known as engineered stone with trade names like Zodiac® Cambria®, and Silestone®, the product is made by combining quartz with resin and pigments in a process that binds the medium permanently. Like granite, quartz is durable, and resistant to wear and tear, stains, scratches, and high temperatures. One of the major advantages of quartz is the color selection, although it does not have veining. Manufacturers are trying to introduce more patterns to quartz, moving the grains and introducing color to make it resemble natural marble or granite.
Pros: Durable, nonporous, and many color choices.
Cons: Doesn’t duplicate the natural movement of granite. Edges and corners can chip.
Ceramic Tile is a product that’s been around forever. We replace a lot of ceramic tile countertops that have lost color over the years. The tile itself will resist staining, but the grout will not. Even with sealing, grout stains very easily. Ceramic tile is heat resistant and available in a variety of colors and patterns; however, not all tiles have matching edge pieces. A solution is to go with a wood edge, but this can get dog-eared from water and cleaning solutions
Pros: Tiles easily clean, and wide range of price, color, texture, and pattern.
Cons: Grout stains easily, even when sealed. Edging difficult or impossible to match the countertop tiles.
One of the largest categories is high-pressure laminates, which are popular with people who want to update their kitchen with new countertops but want to keep costs in mind. Laminate is made of paper or fabric that is impregnated with resin and put over a composite wood product like particleboard. Laminates have come a long way since the’60s and ’70s. Through digital photography, laminates can be made to look like granite or stone. They are also better at resisting scratches, stains, and heat than they used to be. Laminates are a viable alternative, especially if the kitchen remodel is on a smaller budget.
Pros: Durable, many color choices and patterns, and less costly.
Cons: Scratches and chips difficult or impossible to repair. Visible seams, and difficult to do undermount sinks.
Solid surface materials such as DuPont’s Corian®, are durable, long lasting, and heat and stain resistant. They are also available in many choices and color patterns. Solid surface materials are composed of polyester or acrylic resin plus a mineral filler. Solid surfacing is the same material all the way through, so minor surface blemishes can be sanded out. An advantage is that it is virtually seamless. Integrated sink bowls are available that are made of the same materials, though they are usually a different color than the countertop
Pros: Many color choices and patterns that mimic stone, seamless, and stain resistant. Many edge options and integral sink or undermount sink option.
Cons: Needs protection from high heat and sharp knives.
Marble and limestone are beautiful, but they are not ideal for high-use areas because they will scratch easily and require more maintenance. Marble particularly doesn’t take sealers well—one spilled glass of red wine would stain it. Marble and limestone tend to work better for a desk or buffet area. However, bakers favor marble because it is an excellent surface for rolling dough and its molecular makeup keeps its temperature stable. Limestone can withstand heat, but it stains, and scratches more easily than granite or quartz products.
Pros: Beautiful to look at and heat resistant.
Cons: High maintenance. Needs to be used carefully to avoid scratches and nicks. Not stain resistant.
Soapstone is generally gray, green, or bluish in color and has a very smooth feel. Although it scratches easily, it can be sanded out and wiped with mineral oil to darken the stone and conceal scuffs. Soapstone will not absorb stains, and it will form a patina over time.
Pros: Smooth feel, deep colors, easy to conceal scratches, and stain resistant.
Cons: Requires regular maintenance with applications of mineral oil
Onyx falls into the soft stone category. It’s a translucent stone that is perfect for bar tops or backsplash. It’s not very suitable for a countertop that is used frequently for food preparation. It is typically a more expensive option.
Pros: High-end look, translucent, exotic colors and veining.
Cons: More costly to purchase and install. High maintenance – not suitable for acidic or abrasive cleaners. Stains and scratches easily.
Wood countertops give warmth to the kitchen, but are not as durable and user-friendly as other products. Stains from water or liquid can soak into the grain and may be impossible to get out. Some people prefer a butcher block for chopping, but as marble, soapstone, and limestone – it will develop its own personality with nicks and marks. Wood can be treated with mineral oil or beeswax or varnished for stain resistance; however, water can still damage it. We recommend using wood as a feature in the kitchen, such as in the form of a raised snack bar with the use of placemats.
Pros: Rich, warm look.
Cons: Needs periodic sealing or refinish to remove cuts, dings, and scratches, if you desire to maintain a certain look.
Stainless can give your kitchen a high-tech industrial look, and it is commonly found in warehouse condos or lofts. Although it is durable and nonporous, it does not give your kitchen a warm feel as some other materials do. Spots are common on stainless countertops, but they are removable. Stainless can also dent. Countertops are usually fabricated from templates.
Pros: Nonporous, nonstaining, and resistant to heat.
Cons: Can be more costly than granite or quartz. May scratch or dent. Cannot cut on it directly. Fingerprints and water spots show easily.
Concrete counters are cast upside down in molds or formed in place, and they can be made in virtually any shape and thickness. They are hard, durable, and heat and scratch resistant, but they can stain and chip easily. Concrete can be tinted, textured, and have different edge treatments. For a unique look, stone chips or fiber optic lights can also be embedded in it.
Pros: Heat resistant, can be color tinted and texturized, and configured to unusual shapes.
Cons: Subject to chipping.
Choosing countertops can be a fun process, but with so many patterns, colors, and materials to choose from, it can also be overwhelming. The designers at Callen are more than happy to help you select the countertop that functions best for you and your home. Get a free consultation and award winning expertise on your remodeling project today by calling us at 414-765-2585.